Barstow blues

May 2, 2006 3:59 AM

It’s one thing after another for the tribes proposing casinos in Barstow, California. A Senate bill calling for ratification of the compact between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Los Coyotes and Big Lagoon tribes was pulled at the last minute. The measure, SB 1582, was scheduled to go to the full Senate on April 25.

Sen. Wesley Chesbro, D-Arcata, had sponsored the measure, but pulled the compacts out of the bill before it was sent to the Senate. Spokeswoman Jennifer Hanson told the San Bernardino County Sun, "Unless Senator Chesbro or another legislator introduces a new bill, it appears the compact is dead."

But Tom Shields, a spokesman for BarWest Gaming, Los Coyotes and Big Lagoon’s business partner, said the compacts "definitely are not dead." He said SB 1582 had budget ramifications and faced a hearing deadline that could not be met because Los Coyotes Chairwoman Catherine Siva Saubel could not attend, due to health problems. Shields believes the measure will be moved to the state Assembly and go to the full Senate at a later date.

Foxwoods goes south

The world’s largest casino resort is investing $400 million in a new development on the Gulf Coast. Foxwoods Development Corporation is buying 15 acres in Biloxi, Mississippi for a new casino at Broadwater Beach.

The company is taking advantage of a new law signed last fall by Governor Haley Barbour to allow onshore casinos in the wake of Katrina’s economic devastation. "We feel that the Biloxi market is going to come back much stronger than it was pre-Katrina," chief development officer Gary Armentrout told The Sun Herald.

Foxwoods is tailoring its casino resort to fit into the city’s master plan for reconstruction in the area. Operating as a commercial gaming company, they will abide by the state’s rules and will pay state taxes, unlike the two tribal casinos, which are located on reservations.

Pitching woo

While Donald Trump is busy courting the Rhode Island legislature in a bid to build his casino resort in Johnston, Harrah’s Entertainment and the Narragansett Indian Tribe is trying to win approval in West Warwick.

Last week Harrah’s senior vice president, Jan L. Jones, along with several others, spoke at a community meeting aimed at gaining support for their proposed $650 million West Warwick hotel and casino.

"We have been going through a competitive bidding process for the last eight years," Jones told the crowd of some 700 people. "We have been at the legislature. We have put our money where our mouth is."

In response to community concerns, Harrah’s has modified its design to minimize noise, traffic and eyesores.

If Trump succeeds in wooing the legislature, there will be competitive bidding for a single casino-operating license in the state.

Having their say

In California, the State Assembly approved a measure that allows communities to vote on whether or not they think Indian casinos should be allowed in urban areas.

The legislation, introduced by Democratic Assemblywoman Loni Hancock of Berkeley, is an attempt to gain more public input in the rapid expansion of Indian casinos in the state. "People feel passionately about gambling casinos in their communities and right now they have no voice," Hancock told the Contra Costa Times.

Although the votes would not be binding, gaming opponents are pleased. Andres Soto, co-chairman of the East Bay Coalition Against Urban Casinos, called the measure "a major sign of support." He said, "We are thrilled that for the first time the California State Legislature is taking action to curtail the urban Indian Casino epidemic."